News Item

May 2021

2021 NZLF Ethel Benjamin Scholarship winner announced

We are pleased to announce the award of the 2021 New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarship for outstanding women lawyers. This year’s winner is Georgia Bellett.

This annual scholarship honours Ethel Benjamin, New Zealand’s first woman barrister and solicitor, who was admitted to the bar in 1897. The scholarship was established in 1997 to mark the centenary of her admission, and has supported more than 40 outstanding young women lawyers achieve their postgraduate goals.

Georgia plans to use the scholarship to pursue a Master of Laws in the USA at University of California, Berkeley. She will focus on Environmental Law, with particular interest in climate change looking at the three foundations of a sustainable private financial system: climate-related financial reporting, risk management and returns.

Georgia says, “The identification, pricing and allocation of all relevant risks to those who can best manage them is the hallmark of financial stability. Climate change poses a direct challenge to this; the material risks associated with climate change are complex and it is difficult to precisely identify, price, allocate and manage them. There are the obvious physical risks that may arise from climate and weather-related events including damage to property and infrastructure, disruption of business supply chains and agricultural outputs. However, there are also transition risks, which occur as a result of material structural changes to the economy that prompt a reassessment of a wide range of asset values, changes in energy prices and a fall in borrower creditworthiness. To preserve financial stability, the timing of the transition to a zero carbon economy is key; a smooth and early transition is essential if we want to avoid a jump to distress.”

Georgia graduated from the University of Otago, where she won several prizes and awards, and obtained a first class Honours degree in Law and a BSc majoring in Neuroscience.

Georgia joined the Banking and Finance team at Russell McVeagh in January 2018. She is Chair of the firm’s Sustainability Committee in the Wellington office.

Georgia is also a member of the Young Financial Professionals and Young Women in Finance branches of the Institute of finance Professionals NZ Inc. She also maintains community involvement as a regular volunteer at Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley and for the Refugee and Immigration Legal Advice Service.

On her return to New Zealand after her LLM study, Georgia’s ambition is to work with clients and key stakeholders in New Zealand to provide strategic guidance on how to allocate risk and capital to shape the economy and drive the necessary transition to a sustainable economy. “New Zealand will need stubborn optimists like myself to facilitate such a shift”, she says.

The New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarships are awarded to outstanding postgraduate women who hold a law degree and have been accepted into a postgraduate law course in either New Zealand or overseas. The award supports postgraduate research in the law that will protect and promote the legal interests of the New Zealand public.

The award is worth up to $50,000. Details of the award and previous winners can be found on the Ethel Benjamin Scholarship page of the Foundation’s website.

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